Ask a Speech Pathologist or Communicative Disorders Assistant what their favourite  speech tools are and you can bet they’ll mention bubbles! They are certainly my ‘go to’ when working with children of all ages because they can be used in so many different ways to both assess language skills and promote language development.  They can be used to get a child’s attention or to calm a child.  Bubbles are inexpensive, portable and can be used in any setting, Here are some  ways to use bubbles to encourage speech and language development.

1. Promote eye contact,using bubbles.

Engage your child in a fun bubble blowing activity. Watch for the anticipation of more bubbles. Wait for eye contact before you blow more bubbles. If you child struggles with eye contact hold the bubble wand up to you eye level between blows.

2. Teach turn taking, using bubbles.
Bubbles are a fun way to teach my turn, your turn. Basic turn taking routines teach kids the skills for conversational turn taking. You may also teach the signs for my turn, your turn during this activity.

3. Stimulate your child to make a request using bubbles.

Because bubbles are hard for young children to open the container and blow themselves, they are a perfect communication temptation and can stimulate your child to make a request. Begin by blowing the bubbles, screwing the lid on tight, and giving them back to your child. Wait to see what they do. If after trying to open the bubbles themselves unsuccessfully, they hand them back to you for help, they have just made a request.

4. Teach sign, using bubbles.
When your child hands the bubbles back to you to open you can use this opportunity to teach the sign for open. Or while blowing bubbles for your child you might pause to see if he asks for more. If not, teach the sign for more. You may also teach the signs for again, want, please, and all done. I find baby sign language a really useful free site for learning new signs, maybe you will find more that you can incorporate into bubble play.

5. Teach sounds, using bubbles. 
Bilabial sounds (sounds that are made with our lips) such as “p”, “b” and “m”, these are early developing sounds and are therefore easier for children to make. When your child requests for more bubbles with a sign or gesture try modelling the sound /m/ for more, /b/ for bubbles, or /p/ for pop (pop bubbles).

When your child blows bubbles through a wand watch the shape of their lips. If they are round, great! If they are more on the flat side try squeezing their cheeks forward to get their lips in the right position. or give them a verbal cue “round (kissy) lips” as well as have them look at your lips when you are blowing the bubbles so that they can see how you have round lips. If this doesn’t work try having them wrap their lips around a wide straw  that has been cut to about 2″ in length, then with their lips around the straw have them blow the bubbles through the wand. The straw positions their lips into the correct posture for blowing.
Blowing exercises such as blowing bubbles position and strengthen the tongue for sounds produced in the back of the mouth (k/g).

6. Teach  words using bubbles.
Bubbles can be wonderful for teaching new vocabulary words such as action words and descriptor words including early developing concepts. You can model words throughout the activity, bubbles, more, again, want, pop, blow, dip, shake, all done, up, down, in, out, on, off, me, round and round (when turning the lid), wet, sticky, big, small, and various  body parts such as toes, tummy, nose and hands as the bubbles land on them. They can also fill in the word “go” if you say the following words with excitement, “Ready, set, Go!” Then say it again and pause after the word “set” and wait to see if they will fill in “go” before you start blowing the bubbles again. Remember to keep your language level at your child’s level.

7. Teach Conversational skills, using bubbles.                                                                                          

You can work on answering yes/no questions such as “do you want more bubbles?”, choice questions (“do you want to stomp or pop the bubbles?”) and wh-questions (who, what, where) such as asking a questions such as “who will catch the bubble?”, or “where did the bubbles go?”.  You can focus on following directions such as “stomp on the bubbles”, “pop the bubble with your finger”, “give the bubbles to daddy”.

8.Have fun and let your imagination go with bubbles 

Alison Harvey, Communicative Disorders Assistant